Friday, July 17, 2009

Are the Jays destroying their youth?

The large number of young starters landing on the DL this year has really made me question the way the Blue Jays are handling the young pitchers within their organization. To me, it seems like the past few years have been filled with a large number of their young players either landing on the DL or having some sort of season-ending surgery. While I know all teams have their share of injuries, the number of injuries on this team has just been entirely too high.

A concept that you really have to think about in regard to the development of young pitchers is something known as the "Verducci Effect." Verducci has stated:

“Why can’t they throw 200 innings? Simply put, they’re not conditioned for it yet. It’s like training for a marathon. You need to build stamina incrementally. The unofficial industry standard is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It’s a general rule of thumb, and one I’ve been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it’s amazing how often they pay for it.”

Lets look back at some of the players, going back to 2006:

Jesse Litsch: Drafted by the Jays in 2004 in which he made his first major league appearance in 2007. While in the minor leagues he threw 75.2 innings in 2005, 158.2 in 2006, 187.1 in 2007, and 196 in 2007. The jump in innings from 2005-2006 (73IP) is insane and it is no wonder that he had to have TJ surgery this year.

Gustavo Chacin: Was called up by the Jays in 2004 and had a stellar 2005 season in which he went 13-9 with a 3.72 ERA. In 2002 he threw 119.2 innings which was followed by him only throwing 69.1 innings in 2003. I am going to assume that he suffered some sort of injury that limited his innings during that year. It is important to note though that the following season (2004) he threw 167.1 innings; almost 100 more than the year before. He threw a record 203 innings in 2005 and on June 21st they threw him out there going on only 3 days rest. He spent over 3 months on the DL in 2006 with elbow and forearm problems and in 2007 he was also placed on the DL with left shoulder pain. How can you be surprised at the number of injuries he sustained during the 2006 and 2007 season, when you look at the way they abused him.

Shaun Marcum: Was first called up by the Jays at the end of the 2005 season in which he was placed in the bullpen. There wasn't a huge increase in the number of innings he pitched as he threw 148 innings in 2004, 157 innings in 2005, 137 innings in 2006, 159 innings in 2007, and 151.1 innings in 2008. He ended up having TJ surgery 9 months ago and has missed the entire 2009 season so far. I think they were careful in dealing with Marcum, as he was transitioning out of the bullpen during the 2007 season.

Dustin McGowan: Drafted by the Jays in 2000, making his first appearance in 2004. He threw 111.1 innings and 2006 and jumped to 162.7 in 2007, Had surgery in 2008 for a torn labrum and missed a majority of the 08 season and has yet to return to the team in 09.

I could go on and on. The number of injuries to these young guys is insane. I also think it's crazy to think that they have had 12 players so far this season called up to start a game (many of them being these young rookies). Some other pitchers that have suffered injuries and could be included in this list are:
  • Casey Janssen
  • Robert Ray
  • Scott Richmond- debatable
  • Brandon League
While I am uncertain if there is a correlation between the injuries the young guys are getting to the way they are handling the pitchers, it is something that needs to be explored further (if it isn't already). The Jays have developed some really good arms within their system and it is a shame to see so many of them going down and needing surgery at such a young age.


Kyle said...

Good post. I think some of it is bad luck with Toronto and some of it has to do with a poor training and conditioning program. Whether it be the trainers or whoever else is involved with these young pitchers. Ultimately, the GM is the one that bears the responsibility and the blame when something goes wrong.

Yankees have had some injury problems with young pitchers in recent years, but a lot of that is due to obtaining injury prone pitchers... whether it be drafting Joba or Brackman or acquiring guys like Pavano, Wright, or Brown.

I hope these young pitchers from Toronto can come back and rebound. You never want to see a young player have their career lost at the early stages of their career.

bruno van rottweiller said...

Christina, we had a convo related to this. Many Jays fans believe that BRad Arnsberg(as great as he is as a pitching coach) is doing something to their arm angle when coaching these kids Even MIke wilner who does the pre ,post game for the Jays on the radio even admitted recently that Arnsberg could be at fault.Arnsberg was also pitching caoch on the Marlins team that had Pavano, Beckett and Burnett who were injured there.

Al Leiter's Bullpen Catcher said...

It is interesting Bruno. So do you think the number of innings they are throwing might not be related? I do know I read that Janssen was having problems with his arm angel (it was too high or something) which contributed to his injury to which he missed an entire season with a torn labrum. I just know the Jays have a tendency to not only have their young guys throw so many innings a season but also leaving them in for too many innings during games.

I see guys like Chacin, Litsch, and McGowan and it makes me wonder if their injuries could have been prevented. I mean its crazy to think 3 of their young guys (maybe more) were out for the season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Al Leiter's Bullpen Catcher said...

Kyle- I wonder how much is it bad luck and how much of it is the # of innings and their conditioning program. This was why I wanted to research it further to really see if I could make a correlation of some sort. I think it is crazy that Jesse Litsch went from 75.2 innings to 158.2 the following years.

When I look at Marcum, I dont see the innings being the issue, but you never know what other underlying factors there were also. Could it just be the process, since pitching is such an unnatural thing? Possibly. Or could there be more to it? THats a possibility too.

While sometimes I think the Yankees are babying their guys, I look at the results that the Jays have had and I comment them for being to reluctant. The last thing you want is Joba or Phil going down the shoulder problem. Hammy's and other injuries are tough, but sometimes I think you can prevent the arm injuries by now overthrowing them at such a young age like teams have a tendency of doing.

Bruno Von Rottweiller said...

There is a point in innings thrown BUT as I've said when the pitching caoch is giving instructions and so many pitchers go down....I believe Arnsberg is part of the problem not the solution. I understand your innings issue BUT I think it is part of the problem not the main problem. Arnie is improving their pitching BUT he is also damaging their arms with the angle adjustments.......

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

McGowan had Tommy John surgery before he became a regular with the Blue Jays.

I think of all this is a freakish, freakish coincidence.

And here's a post I wrote about everyone's favourite GM, J.P. Ricciardi:

Al Leiter's Bullpen Catcher said...

hey thanks for the link Eye. You made some point about the Jays organization that I was unaware of. I guess its always easier for people to blame the GM instead of looking deeper at the possible source of the problems. I know when they blame the Yankees, Cashman is the first one under the bus.